By David Bandurski – It’s been more than three months now since the 17th National Congress, and still we’re waiting with bated breath for news of China’s all-important national meeting of propaganda ministers (宣传部长会议), which should signal any changes in media policy at the top. So far, nothing — a great big, substantial NOTHING.
This is very unlike what we saw five years ago, when 2003 dawned with a whole constellation of media terms dragged along by “The Three Closenesses.”
Today, however, we have news of the first important speech by politburo member and propaganda chief Liu Yunshan (刘云山) since the close of the congress last October. The gist, obscured by a fog of anti-pornography rhetoric, is an intensified push against political content.
[ABOVE: Screenshot of a release on the January 17 conference call and Liu Yunshan’s speech at the Shanghai Municipal Government website].
In a national conference call with local leaders of China’s “sweep pornography and strike illegal publications” campaign, or sao huang da fei (扫黄打非), Liu Yunshan urged an intensification of last year’s efforts to “struggle” (斗争) against unfavorable publications. Topping the list were “illegal publications of a political nature” (政治性非法出版物), which would presumably include the likes of journalist Zhai Minglei‘s Minjian magazine [more from CMP here].
The release on the Liu Yunshan-led conference posted on Shanghai’s official government website said:
In 2007, deployed in concert by central and city leadership, various Shanghai districts and counties carried out a struggle to “sweep pornography and strike illegal publications,” organizing a series of targeted clean-up campaigns and achieving clear results in dealing with (查堵) illegal publications of a political nature (政治性非法出版物), indecent or pornographic publications, etc., and pirated or copyright violating publications.
The emphasis on “illegal publications of a political nature” suggests leaders intend to leverage law enforcement in 2008 to target print and online content deemed “unfavorable.”
“We must continue and deepen the struggle against pornographic and illegal publications in order to promote a rapidly developing and booming socialist culture, and create a favorable thought and public opinion climate and cultural environment,” the release said.
The very phrase employed for the official campaign — “sweep pornography, strike illegal publications” (扫黄打非) — speaks volumes about the willful conflation by Chinese authorities of the anti-pornography crusade and political censorship generally.
In an unaccountable exception, no release was apparently made available from the official Xinhua News Agency.
[Posted January 18, 2008, 12:52pm HK]
“30 Key 2007 Cases in the National ‘Sweep Pornography, Strike Illegal Publications’ Campaign“, Chinacourt.org, January 18, 2008
China’s official “sweep pornography, strike illegal publications” Website
Following the Liu Yunshan tele-conference, the City of Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, touts its own “sweep pornography” record, January 18, 2008